This meeting brought together groups and organisations concerned with supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Swansea. The idea was to share plans and ideas at a joint strategic level so that we would all gain a better understanding of needs and gaps in provision, and some ideas for joint working and potential future partnership projects might come out of it.
Swansea City of Sanctuary has facilitated similar meetings in the past, which have been useful for everyone. The meeting was well received and confirmed that bringing together the “sanctuary sector” in Swansea in this way is a useful role for SCoS into the future.
Over 15 different local groups and voluntary organisations were invited plus two pubic sector agencies: some are dedicated to supporting asylum seekers and/or refugees in Swansea, or in Wales generally, some have made it a major part of their work, some have specific projects on at the moment.
Of these, 11 organisations were represented and shared information on their main activities and projects and funding situation. Information from those not present could be added to compile a complete list of projects and services. Overall the picture is of lots of small initiatives and projects doing a variety of things (drop-ins, one-to-one support, awareness-raising, community transport, accommodation or hardship funds for those who become destitute etc. etc.) There is very little “official” long-term support or funding, while large national or Welsh organisations often do very little in Swansea. There is a good range of support services and activities but it depends on several people who are very good at fund-raising. The sector is very “bitty” and the future of any one support service is always uncertain.
The wide-ranging discussion covered: funding; trustee recruitment; volunteer recruitment; buildings/venues; transport; integration support; schools; referral mechanisms and post-16 education.
A number of ideas for joint projects emerged:
- Sharing “overheads” in all funded projects to put towards essential services that all access.
- Facilitating stakeholder engagement regarding counselling service, to highlight its value to public services.
- Capacity building for advice service by training volunteers who can manage ‘simple’ parts of casework.
- Training for asylum seekers on the asylum process, their rights, etc. e.g. by using resources available online from national organisations and creating a local programme based on them
- “Hub” – one place for asylum seekers and refugees to go any time for e.g. community drop-in and various advice services (acknowledging the value of each organisation delivering services in its area of strength, rather than merging into one organisation).
- Multi-agency shared space for advice services – less ambitious than above – say one morning per week get as many as possible of those who provide different kinds of advice in one place including those based outside Swansea who would do occasional sessions.
- Generic volunteer training programme.
- Securing sustainability of Advocacy Forum in Swansea – currently, this is facilitated as part of a Wales-wide programme so it needs local support as well.
- InfoEngine – 3 rd sector database of services in Wales – get all Swansea sanctuary sector organisations to put their info on it and keep it updated.
If any of these is to come to fruition, those potentially involved need to continue discussions. It is not clear whether there is a role for SCoS in following any of them up or facilitating further discussions.
In any case, it was agreed the meeting was useful for the sharing of information and that a similar meeting would be useful in 6 or 12 months’ time.